Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

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next week's column: Hope Spams Eternal

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



Have you ever gone through your spam message box for fun?

Wait, just in case some of you don’t have the internet (seriously, some people don’t), let me explain what spam is. Someone, back about five minutes after Al Gore invented the internet and discovered it causes global warming, realized they could sell stuff by e-mail. What they did was gather every e-mail address they could get their hands on, and send an advertisement to all of them.

It cost little money to send the mass e-mails, so if just one moron out of a thousand actually answers them and buys something, the spammer makes a profit. Brazil leads the way as the country where the most spam originates, at 7.7 billion spam messages per year. (But good old America is close behind.)

Old timers know Spam is actually a meat product. Didn’t you youngsters ever wonder? But in 1970 there was a sketch on the show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, in which a waiter is reciting a menu, only to be drowned out by a chorus of Vikings singing a song with the following lyrics: “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam …”

They were spamming the dialogue, you see.

I’m not making this up.

The result is a huge amount of time and money being used to block and deal with spammers, who by the way should all be shot. E-mail systems catch a lot of spam and put it into a spam box, where you can check to make sure it didn’t collect legitimate e-mail. (It sometimes does.) Ever since I sent an e-mail query trying to sell a novel, I’ve been impulsively checking my spam box every ten minutes or so, terrified that the publisher’s reply somehow ended up in there.

That’s what got me looking at the spam e-mail I’ve been getting. Really legitimate appearing stuff, from honest, believable sounding accounts such as Baldini Joe Loans, Viagra© Brand Store, American Ex-Debt, Winning Trade, Become a Teacher, Ministry Finance Office (they want to send me money!), Congratulations, and of course my favorite, Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Viagra is being sent out in spam so often that most spam filters automatically catch it. As a result, spammers are reduced to messing with the spelling: V.i.a.g.r.a, V-i-a-g-r-a, Vi A Gra, and so on.

The “from” category is one place to tell where you might be looking at a spammer. In addition to the ones I’ve mentioned, I’ve gotten mail from 3_easy_steps, Extend_your_warranty, _approval, and of course single_online. The extra little non-letter characters will get the spam past filters, on occasion. Still, I can tell you at a glance that none of these people are on my contact list.

Then there’s the subject line, and that’s where the fun really begins. I just don’t understand why people still click on these things. Sure, once in awhile they manage to fool everyone, but most of them are so obvious as to be ridiculous. Should we care if somebody else gets suckered? Well, yes: If nobody at all bought these scams, the spammers wouldn’t make a profit and would stop spamming the rest of us.

Let’s take a look at some of the subject lines; you tell me if I should click on them, just in case:

“Based on the state are you paying too much?” Any e-mail that asks me if I’m paying too much is probably bogus.

“If you die, love continues. Protect your loved ones.” Okay, that sounds good, and it’s from Life Insurance Alert. Um, no – I didn’t ask for quotes, thank you.

“Lost_your_job_and_need_healthcare?” Well, no. And even if I had, the underlining instead of spacing is a dead give away.

“Claim your FREE blood-glucose-monitor!” First, I don’t need a blood-glucose-monitor. Second, nobody gives nothin’ for free. Third, ALL caps and exclamation points! are signs of either spammers or bad fanfiction.

“Dear Friend,”

No. I am not your friend.

“Your cat can give itself a pedicure.” I don’t have a cat … and if I did, it wouldn’t have opposable thumbs.

“Mew500, Canadian pill advisers.” Um, okay. So they don’t sell me pills – just advise me?

“Save 85% on printer ink/toner.” I don’t understand why the ink spam is so popular, nor am I sure I want to.

“I am a private loan lender.” I am a disgruntled internet user.

“Dell laptop for you…free.” Autographed by Bill Gates, no doubt.

“60 Minutes report confirms weight loss and anti-aging claims.” Then why does Andy Rooney look like he belongs in Jurassic Park?

“Levitra professional in quality meds.” No, I am not buying my medications from someone whose e-mail address indicates he’s holed up in his parents’ basement in Denmark.

“Match.com – See who’s online near you.” Make me.

“Urgent response needed.” If it’s that urgent, pick up the phone.

“User ozma914 save 80% now.” Well, they got my username right … but since this one is from VIAGRA© Brand Store, I’m thinking not so much.

“H0t Trades.” They put a zero in instead of an O, because the spam filters started catching “hot” back when most spam was for porn.

“Paзрешительная докумeнтация.” Anyone? Anyone at all?

“Bilingual in 10 days 100% guaranteed.” Oh? Will I be able to read the previous subject line, then?

“Celebrity Hair Secrets Revealed!” *Gasp!* I could learn celebrity hair secrets!

“You could make $24,000 in 24 hours.” However could I do that, Mr. Madoff?

“Dear Beloved in Christ.” How nice; I’m on a prayer list. Possibly they heard about the high blood pressure I got after going through my spam list.

“Loan Offer!!!!!” Just what I need, another monthly payment!!!!!

“(Spam) Message from Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Thanks for the warning.

“Chicks like em big.” Diamonds? Checking accounts?

“We have the fix for you men.” I’ve already been fixed, thankyouverymuch.

And, on a possibly related note:

“I heard you were small?”

Hey!

And, finally: “Still waiting for your answers.”

This is the one that always gets me. Could it be the publisher? Better check! It never is.

But hope spams eternal.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark
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